Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Handprints On Walk of Fame. Jesus Treviño Visits Stanford Raza. Season Season.

Chicano Poet Joins Walk of Fame
Michael Sedano

Summers from Junior High through the year I left home for college, I laid cement slabs for patios, pool edges, walkways, and the like, under tutelage of my Dad.

We checked the book he got in CCC before the war for the mix. Shovel 3-3-1sand, gravel, cement into the wheelbarrow, eyeball the water and mix to the right consistency. Haul the mezcla to the hole and pour. Work the surface with a two-by-four then trowels. A well-laid slab glistening against a setting sun is about as satisfying a sight as a worker can enjoy.

It will be there forever.

Some of that’s why I’m looking at the Mexican doing all the work while the honchos stand around and the audience bunches up chatting, awaiting Luis J. Rodriguez’ arrival to immortalize his handprints in the finely textured mezcla the essential Mexican worker packs into the sunken frame. It's a special mix and the vato has done a perfect job.

The fellow drawing the finishing trowel across the wet surface wears a necktie. I’ve never seen that before. He’s Cement Artist Sassan Shakoori. He tells me he’s done Grauman’s Chinese Theater for 40 years.

Workers packed the mix tightly against the perimeter barrier. When they've added and patted, Shakoori kneels in to finish the perimeter then smooth the surface. All now lies ready for the cement artist to work Rodriguez’ hands into and out of the mud, leaving a clean, sharp impression.

First the handprints, then the signature. There's a process. The bed of cement has a plasticity and density to push back against the embedding hands, form around the fingers and palm. The impression will fail unless the hands rise straight up.

Someone in the crowd calls out "You've done that before!" "A ten-print!" another observes, as Shakoori presses each digit into the accepting mud. "I'm familiar with the process!" Luis retorts.

A helper holds a supply of black plastic styluses. The rounded tip accumulates the sticky black cement and needs to be changed every two strokes. It's an awkward writing instrument and Luis appears to struggle to keep the depth in control and not muck up the surface with displaced cement. "Luis Rodiguez" he finishes.

Trini Rodríguez tells her husband something he doesn’t at first ‘get’ in the excitement of signing his name in cement.

“You left out the ‘r’, Luis.”

Rodriguez looks at the rough lines in the signature and sees it. Shakoori takes a trowel and wipes away the name. "Where's the c/s?" someone calls out?

Rodriguez finishes his name in a mix of cursive and block letters, whichever is most cooperative to the stylus. There's just enough space for the "J" so he adds it.

Luis looks up and jokes, "There's lots of Luis Rodriguezes, but there's only one Luis J. Rodríguez." The audience cheers in agreement.

The event rings with joy. The writer, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, emeritus, smiles in wondrous spirits on this career highlight. Vroman's is the last major independent bookseller still standing in Pasadena. Billing itself "Southern California's Oldest and Largest Independent Bookstore", the enterprise has honored Michael Connelly and Lisa See with walk of fame commemorations.

Throughout the festivities, people in the crowd call out remarks. And the poet gives it back. It's why the gente have gathered, to share in a momentous community happening. Órale, Luis' signature and handprints will be in cement forever and we were there.

Luis J. Rodríguez, family man, husband, essayist, poet, memoirist, friend, he's the man of the hour and they're here, along with a bevy of local poets, writers, and painters, including Don Newton, Laura Luisa Longoria, Mary Torregrossa, Peter J. Harris, Matt Sedillo, Irene Monica Sanchez, Luis Torres—one of The Three Louies—and wife Sandra, Roberta Martinez, Rick Ortega.

Luis and Trini
The crowd migrates from the laying of hands ceremony to Vroman's back yard, where Lynell George conducts an inspired interview with Luis Rodríguez.

They talk libraries; Luis’ career; Rodríguez’ project to eliminate incarceration; being LA Poet Laureate; Tia Chucha’s books; Luis’ tía, Chucha; a big grant Tia Chucha the bookstore and cultural center has received; Rodriguez’ writing process; mentoring; reading.

Then there was cake and selfies. Vroman's serves a delicious cake, Irene Sánchez tells The Gluten-free Chicano, adding, "I don't usually eat cake but this is delicious!"

Lynell George  and Luis J. Rodríguez
Someone at Vroman's neglected to extend the awning that nestled high overhead against the far eaves. The audience and the speakers enjoyed the full blazing benefit of a typical Southern California Fall afternoon.

The Mexican worker is kicking back in the shade between the two event sites. In the background, people stand around eating cake, snapping fotos with one another and the poet, fotos of the slab of cement freshly laid that will be there, for a long time.

We are immersed in the glow of this well-deserved honor and awareness that this slab of cement now belongs to U.S. literary history.

I ask the worker what it feels like, being a part of literary history?

He considers the question then shakes his head, “Man, I just mix the cement,” me dice. He laughs. I laugh. I remind him none of this here is possible without his labor. He turns his head laughing in modest realization. His name, he answers, is No Importa.

Stanford Book Club Meets Jesus Treviño

The quarterly gathering of The Book Club of the Chicano/Latino Stanford Alumni Association of Southern California enjoyed  the company of an artist who's attended several earlier gatherings, but he was working--filming for Latinopia.

Sunday, November 19th, Jesus Treviño, the award-winning author, was guest of honor with his American Book Award collection, Return to Arroyo Grande (link).

Among the pleasures of the book club are the give-and-take occurring between people who read effectively, and artists who craft the stories and choose the words. The book club holds Treviño to account for his choices.

Do you have a choice? This is one of the major themes threading through Return to Arroyo Grande. Parallel dimensions, people who disappear, uneluctable destinies altered in a time bind, are some of the topics whirling around the table and extended conversation.

Lively discussion is one index of a book's success. Return to Arroyo Grande obviously has proven itself by that measure.

The junta brought new participants, a UCLA first-year English major with writing aspirations and two Stanford alums from back in the day. The crowd gave Treviño a thorough grilling, of the good kind authors get from people who enjoyed the heck out of the author's work.

All were intrigued learning of Treviño's in-process teatro project. The author combines elements from three of the sinkhole stories to make a 90-minute stage piece. The project has legs, and will get a bath of mild acid with a table read in the near future. La Bloga will have times and locations as they become scheduled.

Treviño reads a funny part that tickles Felix Gutíerrez
Bobbi Murray and husband Jesus Treviño meet Stanford University reading raza

Here Come Holiday Sales & Events

La Bloga endorses the notion of buying local, and at holidays a corollary, buy local from local artisans. A comprehensive list of coast-to-coast local artisan events would be useful--to IRS investigators bloodhounding events sniffing out uncollected taxes. La Bloga will let readers in on the events as we learn of them.


The National Hispanic Cultural Center holds a free public event to open its holiday marketing season. Via email, NHCC invites gente to the December 2 5 p.m. fest:

Join us for the opening reception for the exhibition The Art of Christmas: New Mexico Style, featuring approximately 430 handmade ornaments by more than 125 New Mexican artists that have been collected by the Duran family (Matt, Jeanette, and their son Gabriel) over nearly 20 years. Matt and Jeanette began collecting Christmas ornaments in 2000 and there first tree was only 4 feet tall. Now, the ornaments are displayed on a number of trees in their home including one that is 15 feet tall. You can explore this impressive collection in the NHCC Art Museum between December 2, 2017 and January 7, 2018.

Los Angeles
Comedy Tonight - Through January 2018
Not a sale but you can't pay enough for the joys of live theatre and laughs. That's what Los Angeles Theatre Center promises in its holiday season special.

Via email:
Back by popular demand and bursting with laughs, more laughs, music and escandalo (scandal)!
You thought your holidays with the family were dramatic? Try these three hilarious, touching and
surprisingly personal Christmas stories of holidays past told by three acclaimed Latina comedians.

Written and performed by Diana Yanez ♦ Maria Russell ♦ Sandra Valls
Directed by Geoffrey Rivas

Opening Weekend 
Friday, Dec. 1 @ 8 p.m. (reception follows, RSVP when you order seats)
Saturday, Dec. 2 @ 2 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 2 @ 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 3 @ 3 p.m.

Can't make it opening weekend? Performances continue through Jan. 7:
Fridays at 8 p.m. / Saturdays at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. / Sundays at 3 p.m.

Plus: Mon., Dec. 18; Thurs., Dec. 21; Thurs., Jan. 4 - all at 8 p.m.
(dark Dec. 15, Dec. 2, Dec. 29, Dec. 30 and Dec. 31)

The Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 S Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Reyna Grande Annual Iguala Holiday Joy Fund-Raiser

The 43 remain among the missing. Since 2014. Increasingly forgotten in the EUA, their absence continues burning in the memories of devastated families and residents of Iguala, where most of the missing lived. This is Reyna Grande's hometown.

Reyna's been giving the kids of her hometown Christmas gifts for the past three years. This is the fourth year readers can join the sharing by contributing to Grande's current drive.

Via email:
I have launched my campaign to raise funds for my 4th Annual Christmas Toy Giveaway! I appreciate any support you can give me to bring some Christmas cheer to the kids in my hometown. This project is very close to my heart and I would love for you to be a part of it. Click here to donate. View the video click the arrow.

National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th St., Chicago, IL 60608
 (312) 738-1503

Via email:
Start your holiday shopping at the Mercado Navideño Friday, November 24th through Sunday, November 26th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Whether you're looking for jewelry or tote bags, you'll find the perfect gift for that special someone.

Plus, Museum members save 30% on their purchases! Not a member? You can enjoy this exclusive discount by joining today.

Sylmar, the Greater San Fernando Valley
Tia Chucha Sale

Via Facebook:
Hearts and Hands Mercadito is a collaboration with Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural where we actively engage local makers in order to support the creative economy. 

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